THE MIDLANDS regional round of the English Schools’ Athletic Association Combined Events Championships was held at Sutton-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, where the Hereford & Worcester squad were up against six other counties.
Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire provided the opposition for H&W, with up to 28 athletes in each of the six age groups.
H&W fielded 16 athletes in five age groups and, with four teams featuring this year, it made for the squad’s biggest presence at the Midlands region event in recent years.
Four athletes made it through to the National Schools’ Combined Events Championships being held in Exeter in September.
The joint best team performance came in the intermediate girls age group in which H&W finished third, behind Warwickshire and Derbyshire.
Hannah Sahota from Bromsgrove School was their highest points scorer, finishing fourth with a personal best score of 3,802 points and narrowly missing out on a place in the national finals.
Ella Dew (Stourport HS) came eighth, Amber Hopkins (The Chase, Malvern) tenth and Nikita Gotthardt-Mills (St Augustine’s Redditch) 11th.
For Dew and Hopkins, this was their first year in this age group, thus setting personal best points totals. Gotthardt-Mills was competing in her first ever heptathlon competition, so it was a great achievement for all.
Amber’s sister Danielle Hopkins from The Chase School in Malvern was the most experienced H&W athlete, now competing in the senior girls age group in her fifth Midlands Championships.
She set a personal best points score of 3,994, finishing third overall and gaining a place in the national finals for the fourth time.
Another third-placed team finish came in the junior girls age group in which all four H&W athletes competed in their first ESAA Combined Events competition. The team were in a very strong position after three events, with Maya Stewart (Blessed Edward Oldcorne School, Worcester) leading the way in third place and Abigail Rickard (Hagley RC High School) fifth.
However, Stewart picked up an injury during the long jump, forcing her out of the competition. After four of the five events, Rickard had moved up to third place, only one point behind the athlete in second with just the 800m to go.
Rickard immediately took up the challenge, leading from the front in the two-lap race to secure the overall runners-up position and guarantee her place in the national finals.
Libby Oliver from Bewdley High School and Amy Hughes from King’s School Worcester scored consistently throughout to guarantee the third-placed team finish.
In the junior boys pentathlon, Louis Upton (Bromsgrove School), Tom Annis (Bewdley HS) and Ollie Hill (King’s Worcester) were looking to feature in the team competition.
Upton recorded an English Schools’ Entry Standard time in the 80m hurdles, but was up against two phenomenal athletes from Warwickshire, ranked ahead of him nationally. His confidence was boosted by his hurdles achievement and, although not an experienced combined events competitor, he maintained his third position throughout the competition to claim a podium place.
His personal best score of 2,420 points was nearly 300 ahead of the fourth-placed athlete and he is now hoping to build on this having qualified for the national competition. Annis and Hill ensured the team placed fourth and both have another year to compete in this age group.
H&W’s intermediate boys were all making their debut in this competition, with an intention to get through the two days of competition to their best possible standards as some events were new to them.
Needless to say, many personal best times and distances were established, with the team gelling together over the eight events.
Patrick Morgan and George Harrhy are Herefordshire-based athletes, from Fairfield HS in Hereford and John Kyrle HS in Ross-on-Wye respectively.
Ben’s brother Sam Annis, another Bewdley HS athlete, and Alex Harman of St Augustine’s in Redditch achieved their intention as they recorded fourth team position with 9,823 points.
Morgan surpassed his initial expectation, placing sixth in the individual competition and by virtue of his high points total secured a wildcard slot in the national finals.